Was Your Ancestor in the Bristol Riots?

There have been a number of Bristol Riots, the most recent being in 1980, but the most notorious took place between 26 & 31 October 1831, ostensibly in favour of “Reform” – to extend the right to vote. The skies of Bristol glowed blood red from the fires lit by the mob, the Bridewell and Gaol were torched and the prisoners freed. There were 250 casualties, killed and wounded. Five men were executed, Christopher DAVIS, John KEYES, Richard VINES, Thomas GREGORY and William CLARKE.

The following is a list of the more fortunate smaller fry with, where possible, the punishments they received.  It will be seen that a number of them have “death recorded” against their names. In these cases the sentences were commuted to transportation for life.  It is stated that when these individuals  “were given to believe that their lives would spared, a few seemed to care little, being heard to say, “Thank you, My Lord.” Patrick Kearney was more voluble, and cried “Thank Ye, My Lord. My life’s spared till Ireland’s free. Sweet Ireland For Ever!” It seems to me that a disproportionate number, from their surnames, were “Bristol Irish.”


name charge result
Sarah ANDERSON & Mark PARKER Theft of sofa from Benjamin BICKLEY acquitted
George ANDREWS Assisting firing house of Messrs LEMAN & Wm CROSS Guilty, death recorded
Edward ARBORNE Destroying house of F.T. BARNARD  
Thomas AYLAND Theft of bonnet from A. WOOKEY “of trifling value” – discharged
Patrick BARNETT Setting fire to house of William CROSS Guilty, death recorded
James BAYLEY Destroying house in St Nicholas  
William BEARDE Destroying Gaol 12 months hard labour
William BEER Firing Gaol  
Thomas Evans BENDALL Setting fire to Bishop’s Palace Guilty, death recorded
William BENNETT Destroying house in St Stephen Boy, guilty
James BENTLEY riot Boy, guilty
John BOND Firing house, St Nicholas acquitted
Thomas BRIMMELL Theft of a Bible from John Price KIRBY 6 months hard labour
John BRITTON Theft of a sword from Henry JEW acquitted
Benjamin BROAD Firing house, Queen Square Guilty, death recorded
Peter BROWN, seaman See John HARPER guilty
Samuel BROWNING & Felix WYMAN Theft of a pair of sheets from Joseph RICHARDSON 2 years hard labour
John Tarrant BUFFIN Demolishing house of Benjamin BICKLEY & theft of cotton handkerchiefs from Christopher CLAXTON  
William BURGESS Theft of papers belonging to His Majesty & a book from Charles ANDERSON 6 months hard labour
William CHAMP Setting fire to house of Wm SHEPPARD Boy, guilty
Mary CHARLES Stealing a muff and other articles from Hester BARRETT Not Guilty


Breaking house of John Stroud BROAD, and theft from there &  from Julia HARFORD Transported 7 years
Charles COATES With John REES, destroying house of Benjamin BICKLEY Guilty, 2 years imprisonment
James COLE Theft of 6 books from Alexander Campbell JOHNSON 6 months
Timothy COLLINS Firing house, St Nicholas Guilty, death recorded
James COURTNEY Pulling down Gaol Guilty, death recorded
John & Sarah COX Receiving violin see Joseph KEATES Not guilty
Henry CRINKS – see KRINKS    
Stephen CULLEN Theft of 7 bottles of wine from James ROOM, jun 4 months hard labour
Edward DADY Theft of books Previous good character, sentence deferred, then 6 months hard labour
John DALLY & John HOWELL Destroying house in St Nicholas acquitted
William DOGBERTY Riot in St Stephens & St Nicholas No evidence offered, bound over
Benjamin DONNE (Dunne) Theft of brass weight, property of His Majesty 12 months hard labour
James DONOVAN Demolishing house is St Nicholas acquitted
Daniel DOYLE, boy Demolishing Bridewell Also Theft of a watch, valued £1.  To be imprisoned 6 months and whipped during this time. His mother the next named was reprimanded for sending her son & daughter out looting. This may be the same Daniel Doyle tried several years later for stealing lead from roof of the “Lady Rodney” Steam Packet and transported for life. See Bs Merc 4.7.1835
Eleanor DOYLE Theft of 8 pairs of gloves from Rebecca JONES acquitted
William DREW, mariner Breaking into house of John MOXHAM, theft 12 months hard labour
Margaret DWYER (GWYER) Receiving linen sheet, property Wm HUMPHRIES, Governor of the Gaol Not Guilty
James DYER Theft 4 gallons beer, property R. WALTER & pulling down a house Guilty, death recorded.
Thomas FITZGERALD Destroying Gaol acquitted
Stephen GAISFORD Firing house, Queen Square Guilty, death recorded
Thomas GALLICK Theft 6 yards linen from Christopher CLAXTON & 2 coats from J.L. BICKLEY 12 months hard labour
Henry GREEN Destroying house of J.J. LEMAN Guilty, death recorded
Margaret GWYER See Margaret Dwyer  
Samuel HARDING Destroying Custom House 2 years hard labour
John HARPER & Peter BROWN Disturbing peace in St Nicholas guilty
Anthony HARVEY Riot & disturbing peace boy
James HASTY Theft of a parcel of cancelled bank notes from J. BRADLEY & F.T. BARNARD “the bits of paper” were valued at 2 shillings. Acquitted
William HEDGES, (boy) Joseph HEDGES, (boy) Destroying house of Charles PINNEY, esq Both guilty
Cornelius HICKEY Riot St Stephens Guilty, death recorded
Daniel HIGGS Firing Gaol Guilty, death recorded
Catherine HOGAN Theft of 2 silk dresses property of Duncan M’ARTHUR 12 months hard labour
John HOWELL See John DALLY acquitted
Charles HUISH See James STREET Transported 7 years
Thomas HUSSEY Theft of 7 bottles of wine from James ROOM, jun 4 months hard labour
James IVES Theft of a gold watch from Rev Charles BUCK & a silver salver Value £30 from house of Anna Maria BRICKDALE belonging to Mayor, Burgesses & Commonalty of Bristol 7 years transportation
John JACOBS Riot & disturbing peace Guilty
David JAMES Theft, 70 gallons beer from John STURDWICK ROWE Guilty. Sentence of  death recorded
John JARVIS Theft of 7 bottles of wine from James ROOM, jun 4 months hard labour
John JELLEMY/JEREMY of Brislington * Firing house of Wm HUMPHRIES 2 years imprisonment.
William JENKINS rioting guilty
John JONES Theft of 6 books from Robert SAY 12 months hard labour
Patrick KEARNEY Assisting firing of Gaol Guilty, death recorded
Joseph KEATES Theft of Violin from Wm CROSS 7 years transportation
Henry KRINKS, & John THOMAS Theft of 60 gallons spirits, 60 gallons beer & a clock from J.S. ROWE Guilty. Sentence of  death recorded
Thomas LANE Theft brass chandelier suspender, property Charles PINNEY esq. 1 month, hard labour, previous good character, judge said parents and masters should have more control over their children
William LEE Theft of silver dessert spoon from William Charles STEPHENS 3 months hard labour
Samuel LEVERS Stealing 2 promissory notes from John Stroud BROAD  
Aaron MARTIN, stable boy Theft of cabinet, property of A.JOHNSON 7 years transportation. Said “Thank ye, My Lord, I did not know I had so long to live.”
Thomas MARTIN Theft of cabinet, property of A.JOHNSON Relative – brother?- of above, acquitted
Daniel M’Carthy Firing house of F.T. BARNARD 12 months hard labour
Edward McDonald Entering dwelling house of Chas PINNEY Boy, guilty
John MECAY Destroying gaol Guilty, death recorded
William MASON Theft of gold watch from Julia HARFORD 12 months hard labour
William MORGAN Disturbing peace & want of sureties guilty
Richard NEVILLE Destroying house in St Stephens 7 years transportation
Nathaniel (Samuel?)  NEWTON Breaking into house of Thos SHEPPARD acquitted
Charles NOTT Theft of 20 Gallons spirit from Edward ZINCRAFT 12 months hard labour
Jonas OSBORNE Demolishing house in St Nicholas Boy, acquitted
William OSGOOD Setting fire to Bridewell  
Mary PARKER   1 month hard labour
John PEACH Theft of 5 plated candlesticks, property of Rt Hon Robt GRAY, Lord Bishop of Bristol & silver cup, property of HM the King  
James PHILLIPS Firing house, St Nicholas Boy, guilty
Richard PHIPPS Firing Gaol  
Robert POUCHARD Firing Gaol Not guilty
William PUNCH Destroying Bridewell 12 months hard labour
James PRICE Theft 4 gallons beer, property R. WALTER Guilty, death recorded
Hannah REEVES/REES Receiving 2 linen sheets property of Henry BRIDGES SMITH 6 months hard labour
William REEVES Theft of papers belonging to James LEMAN “the bits of paper” were valued at 2 shillings. Acquitted
John REES See Chas COATES guilty
William REYNOLDS Theft of silver tankard from Benjamin BICKLEY Guilty, death recorded
John SIMMONS/SYMMONS Theft tea urn and fender from Wm STRONG Guilty, death recorded
James SIMS Destroying Bishop’s Palace  
Samuel SMITH riot acquitted
James SNOOK Destroying house of William STRONG Guilty, death recorded
James STREET & Charles HUISH Entering house of Elizabeth DAVY 7 years transportation
George STYLING Destroying house in St Nicholas guilty
Daniel SULLIVAN Firing, St Nicholas Boy, guilty
Michael SULLIVAN Destroying a house Guilty, death recorded
John THOMAS See Henry KRINKS  
John TOWELL Destroying house in St Nicholas Guilty, death recorded
Charles TURTLE Destroying house in St John the Baptist acquitted
James E. WALKER Theft of 2 gallons beer from E.C. LEWIS & a quart from George BAKER This was robbery with violence. Sentenced to be transported for life
Matthew WARRY Assisted pulling down house of Thomas EVANS keeper of Bridewell Guilty, death recorded
Charles WATERS   2 years
Charles WILLIAMS Destroying house of T. WEBB Guilty, death recorded
James WILLIAMS Firing Gaol  
Felix WYMAN See Samuel BROWNING 2 years hard labour


  • In my booklet “Brislington Bulletins, no. 7, 1825-40” I stated that no Brislington parishioner was involved, then lo and behold along came John Jellamy who, in 1827, lodged with my distant kinfolk William and Harriet PILLINGER.
  • This article was prompted by an email from Peter & Roslyn Dunning from Australia peteandros@westnet.com.au who are descendants of the cheeky chappie Aaron Martin.  It is great to know that he survived down under. If anybody knows his parentage – he lived at Lewin’s Mead and his father was a farmer, please contact Peter and Ros.
  • The above information with much more detail can be found in Bristol Mercury 3 January & 17 January, 1832. It is interesting to note that this newspaper was against capital punishment and argued forcibly, sadly without success, for the reprieve of the five men who were hanged and made much of the discrepancies of the sentences between them and a number of the others.